The ZTE Axon 7 had a troubled news cycle over the last year or so. While the company was working on updates, they were essentially slapped out of existence by the US Department of Commerce for business with embargoed nations. This caused a lot of issues, to the say least, including the shutdown of their OTA update servers.
Yadda yadda yadda. ZTE has just released their Oreo update.
This image is from the Nougat update. I'm not upgrading. It's still my primary phone.
But you probably don’t want to install it. This seems to be a release for the enthusiasts to make good on their original intentions, but it comes with a few major downsides. Before we get too much further, those downsides are:
- The update will completely wipe your phone.
- Daydream VR will completely stop working after the update.
- Might not be able to roll back to Nougat?
- You need to manually install it from the SD card. No simple OTA.
Of course, the fourth issue is a good thing. ZTE doesn’t want to erase important photos or remove a major feature unless the user explicitly accepts the side-effects. If they do, however, then the Oreo update also replaces the ZTE MiFavor with their newer Stock+ interface. (This switchover is apparently the specific element that will destroy local data.)
It’s up to you. ZTE gave the enthusiasts what they asked for – and it's nice that they did – but it’s probably a step back from Nougat if you still use it as your primary phone. Check it out on their forums.
Subject: Mobile | April 28, 2018 - 04:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7
So, for the last couple of years, ZTE was making a point to keep their devices supported with up-to-date software. They were a bit on the slow side, but devices got their updates eventually, including new features and other improvements.
Then, recently, the US Department of Commerce banned American companies from exporting goods to ZTE for seven years. This means that they can no longer acquire things like Qualcomm processors. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade followed in the US’s footsteps and banned companies in Taiwan from selling to ZTE, which also rules out sourcing from companies like MediaTek.
At around the same time, ZTE was wrapping up their Oreo update beta. A new wave of participants was added for a couple of weeks, and then it was announced that the program has ended. The export ban occurred between those two points. This could have meant that they were ready to release, and it could have also meant that they gave up.
It'll just keep doing this... over and over...
Now, if you attempt to run ZTE’s system update app, it just spins forever – they shut their update servers down. It looks like they gave up.
So… yeah. That sucks. It was a good phone, too.
Subject: Mobile | February 19, 2018 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 9, qualcomm, snapdragon 845
So there’s a lot to say about this story. The first bit is that the follow up to my current phone, which is a ZTE Axon 7, will be launching later this year. It will be called the ZTE Axon 9, and a bunch of rumored leaks have just dropped on it.
Image Credit: ZTE Weibo via GSM Arena
GSMArena cites claims that the device will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. High-end SKUs will have 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. Low-end SKUs will have 4GB of RAM. Personally, I haven’t come close to filling up the 64GB of the original ZTE Axon 7, although that’s just me. This is the first time I checked pretty much since I got the phone, and I still have about 33 GB remaining. That said, you are not me, and you probably know how much space you’ll use.
The choice of SoC is interesting. ZTE seems to go straight for the top of Qualcomm’s product stack with their flagship device, which puts it against the performance of, for instance, Samsung’s latest-and-greatest at the time. The ZTE Axon 7 came out a few months after the Samsung Galaxy S7, had the same processor, and was hundreds of dollars cheaper. ZTE wanted market share, but it looks like they might be continuing the trend.
The new device is said to have a 6-inch screen, which makes it slightly larger than the Axon 7, which has a 5.5-inch screen. Both cameras have also been upgraded. The rear camera will be 20 megapixels, while the front-facing one will be 13 megapixels. This doesn't say much about how it will perform, such as how much light is required to get a good image, but we will find out eventually.
At around the same time, US intelligence agencies are warning against purchasing ZTE and Huawei devices because the two companies have ties with the Chinese government. ZTE and Huawei both rebuke the assertions, of course. Personally, I use the ZTE Axon 7 as my only cellphone.
It doesn’t bother me.
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2018 - 11:01 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7
Until this weekend, the ZTE Axon 7 was running on the August patch level of Android 7.1.1. The phone manufacturer was hinting that Oreo could be provided, and a few leaks have shown Android 8.0 running on the device. My assumption was that ZTE was just holding off on updates until their build of Android 8.0 is ready.
Today, my phone was updated to Android 7.1.1 with the December patch level.
To me, this says that – well, one, the Blueborne and KRACK vulnerabilities are finally fixed. Two: if ZTE was holding out on updates until Android 8.0, then they no longer expect to ship it in the immediate future. They could still be working on it, and I’m guessing that they are unless they found a showstopper bug that simply cannot be worked around, but it’s slower than they projected.
That said, I’m glad that ZTE is still patching their device, two years later. The availability of updates is a major factor in my choice of which phone to buy. While I’ve had some hiccups with it, it’s been well worth the price, and software support is a big differentiator in that category. Sure, it’s not going to compete with Google’s first-party devices, especially in terms of update frequency, but it’s not competing with Google’s first-party devices.
Let’s see how long the support will last.
Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2017 - 10:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7
It’s been a while since ZTE has released an update for their Axon 7, but it looks like they’re still supporting the device with both security updates and new features. The Android version number is still 7.1.1, but 7.1.2 was mostly for Pixel phones, and it would be a little eager to expect Android 8.0. While all cellphone manufacturers should push security updates as quick as possible, because particularly nasty issues can be exploited within hours of a patch being publicly available, not months, at least they are still doing them at all.
The ZTE Axon 7 was released a little over a year ago.
The most noticeable update is the multi-user support, which adds a colorful icon to your lock screen. When you click it, you’re able to choose the user to login as, create a new one, or create a guest account. I have noticed that the phone is also significantly more responsive, especially when rotating the display, but they might have just shortened the animation. Either way, it feels a lot faster, which is good, regardless of where that performance comes from.
If you're considering a phone from ZTE, then this should give clues about their intended update schedule. It's not Google-level, but it's at least a year, if the Axon 7 is any indication.
As I mentioned last week, my ZTE Axon 7 has just received Android 7.0 Nougat, which also unlocked Google Daydream VR. I wasn’t able to pick up Google’s VR headset at the time, but now I can, so I did, and I spent a couple of hours messing around with it.
First, I have to say I am very glad that Google made one headset (and controller) that works with all Daydream-compatible phones. That wasn’t entirely clear when I ordered my Axon 7 last summer, and I feared it would lead to a lot of waiting for my OEM to release a specific headset that may or may not be as good as any another vendor’s, especially sight unseen. I don’t really know how they properly align the screens, across all possible phones and accounting for user-error, but it seems to accept my phone perfectly without really any fiddling. Maybe it’s a simpler problem than I am envisioning, but, either way, the one viewer works with my ZTE Axon 7 -- it’s not just for the Pixel.
My second point is that the phone gets very hot, very quick. I’m sure ZTE knows about this, and the phone is designed around it, but it doesn’t just get warm, it borders on hot-to-the-touch at times. To be safe, I’m removing the case each time I insert it into the Daydream View, although the device seems to work either way. The battery does drain quickly, relative to other workloads, but a single, hour-or-so VR sitting took about 25% off (~75% remaining). Despite the heat and the quick battery drain, you will probably be done with a VR sitting before the device is, so I consider those aspects to be all-around positive.
As for the YouTube app, I’m glad that the virtual screen for standard video can be adjusted in pretty much any way. You can make it bigger or smaller with the track pad, pull it in any direction with motion controls, and adjust whether it’s flat or curved (so all points are equidistant) in the settings. If you want to lay on your back in bed and watch movies “on the ceiling”, then you can... and without holding the phone over your face while your arms go numb.
Yes, I’m speaking from experience.
As for games? Eh... about the only thing that caught my eye is maybe “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”. I’m pleasantly surprised it’s there, but it’s about the only thing that is. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot of apps, and that’s fine for me, but you probably shouldn’t get too excited outside of video.
Also, it’d be nice to see Google Chrome in VR. Get on that, Google! A virtual void would make a good place to keep my many, many tabs. It will apparently support WebVR content very soon, but in a “browse, click the Daydream button, mount it in the View, and put it on your head, then undo all that when you’re done” sort of way. It’d be nice to just... stay in the headset to browse.
Anywho, I have it, and those are my thoughts. It’s early, but it seems to work pretty well. I haven’t tried an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive yet, though, so I can’t make any comparisons there.
Subject: Mobile | February 8, 2017 - 07:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7, google, nougat, Android, android 7.0
Well that was quick. About two weeks ago, we reported on ZTE Mobile Deutschland’s Facebook post that said Android 7.0 would miss January, but arrive some time in Q1. For North America, that apparently means the second week of February, because my device was just notified, about an hour ago, that A2017UV1.1.0B15 was available for over-the-air update. It just finished installing.
In my case, I needed to hold the on button a few times to get the phone to boot into the second stage of installation, but ZTE mentions it in the pre-install notes, so that’s good. Then, when the phone moved on to the new lock screen, my fingerprint reader didn’t work until after I typed in the lock screen password. I’m not sure why the phone didn’t accept the fingerprint reader until after I successfully logged in, especially since it used the fingerprints on file from Android 6.0, I didn’t need to set it up again, but it’s a small inconvenience. Just don’t perform the update if you can’t access your password manager and you don’t remember the unlock code off the top of your head.
While I don’t have a Daydream VR headset, I’ll probably pick one up soon and give it a test. The Daydream app is installed on the device, though, so you can finally enjoy Android-based VR content if you pick one up.
If your phone hasn’t alerted you yet, find your unlock password and check for updates in the settings app.
The German offices of ZTE Mobile have announced (via their Facebook page) that the Android 7.0 update will be coming later in this quarter, which would be before the end of March. In November, this branch announced that the update would be coming in January. This update is supposed to bring Daydream to the handset, as this was one of the big promises that ZTE made about the device before it launched. They are not confident with it in its current state, though.
Our readers were asking about my opinion of the device, since I published a “Just Delivered” post about it four months ago. I said that I would wait until the Nougat release, which I was, at the time, expecting in October or November, because I had a feeling that ZTE envisioned the phone with that OS version. Since then, bugs have come and gone, most of which were relatively benign, like messing up whitespace in the lock screen’s current date. Personally, I started getting a bug where my camera would occasionally fail to focus, instead humming and blurring like it’s focusing in and out tens or hundreds of times per second until you close the app using the camera. (It started happening, off and on, just after the last service update, although it could just be a coincidental hardware issue with my unit. I’m waiting until I see it in Nougat to call customer support.)
Either way, it’s probably a good thing that ZTE is taking their time with this one. I’m guessing this update is when those who adopted the Axon 7 will begin to solidify judgments about the company as a higher-end phone vendor going forward.
Subject: Mobile | September 20, 2016 - 03:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7, just delivered
You can, for all intents and purposes, say that I haven't really had a smartphone until now. The only one that came close was my LG Optimus One, which ran Android 2.2 and had a few dozen megabytes of usable, internal storage. That said, I got it for about a hundred bucks around five years ago. I wanted a portable computer based on a modern Android OS for quite some time, but could never justify the cost give how little it would be used outside of WiFi.
This year changed that quite a bit. With ZTE, OnePlus, ASUS, and other companies fighting for the mid-range space, it seemed like now would be a good time to buy, and the ZTE Axon 7 ended up being my choice. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, which is all over the place it seems, supports OpenGL ES 3.2 and Vulkan, although the depends on the handset vendor to ship the compatible drivers. Since it's likely that ZTE will ship those APIs, especially when Android N is pushed to it, I was able to justify the extra cost with software development. It also has a beautiful, AMOLED display and surprisingly good sound, especially for voice-centric bands like The Tragically Hip.
One thing that confused me was Newegg's pre-order bonus. For purchasing the device, already about half the price of comparable phones, they throw in a pair of Monster over-ear headphones for free. Yes, nothing is truly for free, and Monster products typically don't cost anywhere near their retail price, which claims to be $200 CDN, but the phone, itself, already seemed like it was pocket change over cost. Makes you wonder how much ZTE is selling it to Newegg for, and whether it's sustainable.
Anywho, I have now joined the modern mobile world.
Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2013 - 04:37 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zte open, zte, smartphone, msm7225a, mozilla, Firefox OS
Mozilla has been working on its mobile Firefox OS for about a year, and smartphones running the OS are starting to become available stateside. The first bit of hardware running Firefox OS is the ZTE Open, which launched last week for $79.99 exclusively on eBay. Unfortunately, the limited stock ZTE made available is already gone, and there is no word on when more smartphones will be available. (However, in typical eBay fashion, users are turning around and selling the $80 phone for $170 if you really want to get your hands on it...)
According to the eBay listing, ZTE managed to sell 985 of the orange ZTE Open smartphones.
The ZTE Open comes in blue or orange and features low end specifications. Fortunately, Firefox OS and its HTML5 applications do not demand much hardware. On the outside, the ZTE Open has a 3.5” TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 320, a single home button sitting below the display, and a 3.15 MP rear camera. Internal specifications include a MSM7225A SoC with an ARM Cortex-A5 CPU clocked at 1Ghz and Adreno 200 GPU along with 2GB of internal storage expandable by micro SD card. Other specifications include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, 3G cellular radio, a 1200 mAH battery, and various sensors (accelerometer, ambient light, and GPS). The Firefox OS smartphone measures 114 x 62 x 12.5mm.
Seeing the ZTE Open sell out of its limited stock in such a short amount of time suggests that there is some positive amount of demand for Firefox OS from enthusiasts, but the smartphone and OS platform still has a long road ahead of it before it becomes a true threat to Android and iOS. Much like the fabled Ubuntu Phone, more than enthusiast demand will be needed, along with support from US carriers and app developers. With that said, it is a good first step into the US market and I hope ZTE makes more phones available soon.
Read more about Mozilla's Firefox OS.